A Solid Ride on German Chassis

Mingguang. As a business owner’s daughter, Ni Hongyan did not initially plan to work in the family firm. She became a teacher instead. In mid-2012 though, she decided to switch careers and join the board of the company owned by her family where, as a manager from the new generation, she was desperately needed to help move the company forward. Haomiao Fire Protection Technology Development has around 300 employees and is a leading manufacturer of firefighting vehicles in China. It owns a number of patents and from its headquarters in Anhui Province in Central China serves not only the Chinese market, but also customers in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and South America.

This career move presented Ni Hongyan with enormous challenges: How could the increasing number of employees be managed efficiently? How could the company expand its business abroad? How could competiveness be improved? The young Chinese entrepreneur found the answers to these questions at the BMWi Manager Training Programme (MP). During a thirty-day visit to Germany, Ni Hongyan learned about project, human resource and quality management methods and acquired the necessary intercultural skills. After a number of seminars and visits to German companies, Ni Hongyan recognised that although business was still going well, it would be advantageous to create a new, sustainable corporate structure. She was particularly impressed by the fact that many German companies offer their employees a wide range of capacity building options.

After completing the MP, Ni Hongyan commissioned a Chinese consulting firm to identify Haomiao’s human resource allocation and production problems and suggest possible solutions. After analysing the results, she restructured the entire company. Ni Hongyan also set up an internal training centre and began offering employees regular advanced training. She has long-term plans to transform the firm into a joint stock company and believes this is an effective way of counteracting the typical “illness” often suffered by Chinese companies, whose success rates drop when they move into the hands of the second generation.

The MP was also very helpful for current business for Haomiao. Ni Hongyan visited a total of 19 companies in Germany, including GFT, a firefighting technology company, and well-known vehicle manufacturer MAN, both of whose technology and products seemed ideal for her company. Meetings between Ni Hongyan and these two German firms revealed fruitful areas for cooperation. Just one month after she returned to China, representatives from GFT visited Ni Hongyan and concluded a sales contract for low six figures. Using a range of different GFT burner modules, Haomiao can put its firefighting vehicles through practical tests to identify and directly address any problems.

Since German underbodies are well-known for their exceptional quality, Haomiao’s board decided to purchase chassis from MAN and Mercedes Benz. Firefighting vehicles with German chassis immediately attracted customers from new markets in the Near East and Africa, who placed orders worth millions of euros. So Ni Hongyan’s company is profiting from the excellent reputation of German chassis – which are supporting its stable development.